Philips CD-i

Philips CD-i

The Philips CD-i 220 and controller
Manufacturer Philips, Sony, Magnavox
Type Home video game console
Media player
Generation Fourth generation
Release date

‹See Tfd›

  • NA: December 3, 1991
  • EU: 1992
Retail availability 1991–1998
Discontinued 1998[1]
Units sold 1 million[2][3]
Media CD-i, Audio CD, CD+G, Karaoke CD, Video CD
Operating system CD-RTOS
CPU Philips SCC68070 @ 15.5 MHz
Memory 1 MB RAM
Display 384×280 to 768×560
Graphics Philips SCC66470
Sound MCD 221, ADPCM eight channel sound
Online services CD-Online
Predecessor Philips Videopac + G7400

The Philips CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) is an interactive multimedia CD player developed and marketed by the Dutch electronics manufacturer Royal Philips Electronics N.V. This category of device was created to provide more functionality than an audio CD player or game console, but at a lower price than a personal computer with a CD-ROM drive at the time. The cost savings were due to the lack of a floppy drive, keyboard, mouse, monitor (a standard television is used), and less operating system software.

In addition to games, educational and multimedia reference titles were produced, such as interactive encyclopedias, museum tours, etc., which were popular before public Internet access was widespread. Competitors included the Tandy VIS and Commodore CDTV.

CD-i also refers to the multimedia Compact Disc standard used by the CD-i console, also known as Green Book, which was developed by Philips and Sony. Work on the CD-i began in 1984 and it was first publicly announced in 1986.[4] The first Philips CD-i player, released in 1991 and initially priced around US$700,[5] was capable of playing interactive CD-i discs, Audio CDs, CD+G (CD+Graphics), Karaoke CDs, Photo CDs and Video CDs (VCDs), though the latter required an optional "Digital Video Card" to provide MPEG-1 decoding.

The CD-i was a commercial failure, selling only 1 million units across all manufactures in 7 years, and losing Philips $1 billion.

The CD-i player is also one of the earliest gaming systems to implement internet features, including subscriptions, web browsing, downloading, e-mail, and online play. This was facilitated by the use of an additional hardware modem that Philips released in 1996 for $150.[6]


Early software releases in the CD-i format focused heavily on educational, music, and self-improvement titles, with only a handful of video games, many of them adaptations of board games such as Connect Four. Later attempts to develop a foothold in the games market were unsuccessful, as the system was designed strictly as a multimedia player and thus was under-powered compared to other gaming platforms on the market in most respects.[7] Earlier CD-i games included entries in popular Nintendo franchises, although those games were not developed by Nintendo. Specifically, a Mario game (titled Hotel Mario), and three Legend of Zelda games were released: Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventure. Nintendo and Philips had established an agreement to co-develop a CD-ROM enhancement for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System due to licensing disagreements with Nintendo's previous partner Sony (an agreement that produced a prototype console called the SNES-CD). While Philips and Nintendo never released such a CD-ROM add-on, Philips was still contractually allowed to continue using Nintendo characters.

Applications were developed using authoring software produced by OptImage. This included OptImage's Balboa Runtime Libraries and MediaMogul. The second company that produced authoring software was Script Systems; they produced ABCD-I.

Philips also released several versions of popular TV game shows for the CD-i, including versions of Jeopardy! (hosted by Alex Trebek), Name That Tune (hosted by Bob Goen), and two versions of The Joker's Wild (one for adults hosted by Wink Martindale and one for kids hosted by Marc Summers). All CD-i games in North America (with the exception of Name That Tune) had Charlie O'Donnell as announcer. The Netherlands also released its version of Lingo on the CD-i in 1994.

In 1993, American musician Todd Rundgren created the first music-only fully interactive CD, No World Order, for the CD-i. This application allows the user to completely arrange the whole album in their own personal way with over 15,000 points of customization.

CD-i has a series of learning games ("edutainment") targeted at children from infancy to adolescence. Those intended for a younger audience included Busytown, The Berenstain Bears and various others which usually had vivid cartoon-like settings accompanied by music and logic puzzles.

Although extensively marketed by Philips, notably via infomercial,[8] consumer interest in CD-i titles remained low. By 1994, sales of CD-i systems had begun to slow, and in 1998 the product line was dropped. Philips had by then, already sold its gaming subsidary, Philips Media BV to french publisher Infogrames in 1996.

A large number of full motion video titles such as Dragon's Lair and Mad Dog McCree appeared on the system. One of these, Burn:Cycle, is considered one of the stronger CD-i titles and was later ported to PC. The February 1994 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly remarked that the CD-i's full motion video capabilities were its strongest point, and that nearly all of its best software required the MPEG upgrade card.[9]

In 1996 Philips introduced CD-Online, a system which provided the CD-i with full internet access, including online shopping and support for networked multiplayer gaming on select CD-i games. Andy Stout, a writer for the official CD-i magazine, explained CD-Online:

It is very much Internet-lite. The main advantages are that it's cheap - probably working out at a third of the cost of a PC or Mac solution - and incredibly user-friendly. The downside though is using a browser that doesn't support Netscape, and coping with all the drawbacks of the machine's miniscule memory - you can only ever access 10 articles on Usenet at a time, it'll only support 80 bookmarks maximum and for all that trouble all your saved games, preferences, and high scores will been written over in RAM. ... It's got the full access right now but with only about 40% of the functionality, which will probably be fine for people who don't know what they're missing. But the virtual keyboard is a complete nightmare to use ...[10]

With the home market exhausted, Philips tried with some success to position the technology as a solution for kiosk applications and industrial multimedia.

Player models

Philips models

The Philips CD-i 910
Philips CD-i 400 series

In addition to consumer models, professional and development players were sold by Philips Interactive Media Systems and their VARs. Philips marketed several CD-i player models.

There also exist a number of hard-to-categorize models, such as the FW380i, an integrated mini-stereo and CD-i player; the 21TCDi30, a television with a built-in CD-i device; and the CD-i 180/181/182 modular system, the first CD-i system produced.

Other manufacturers

In addition to Philips, several manufacturers produced CD-i players, including Magnavox,[9] GoldStar / LG Electronics, Digital Video Systems, Memorex, Grundig, Saab Electric, Sony (Intelligent Discman, a portable CD-i player), Kyocera, NBS, Highscreen, and Bang & Olufsen, who produced a television with a built-in CD-i device (Beocenter AV5).

TeleCD-i and CD-MATICS

Recognizing the growing need among marketers for networked multimedia, Philips partnered in 1992 with Amsterdam-based CDMATICS to develop TeleCD-i (also TeleCD). In this concept, the CD-i player is connected to a network such as PSTN or Internet, enabling data-communication and rich media presentation. Dutch grocery chain Albert Heijn and mail-order company Neckermann were early adopters and introduced award-winning TeleCD-i applications for their home-shopping and home-delivery services. CDMATICS also developed the special Philips TeleCD-i Assistant and a set of software tools to help the worldwide multimedia industry to develop and implement TeleCD-i. TeleCD-i is the world's first networked multimedia application at the time of its introduction. In 1996, Philips acquired source code rights from CDMATICS.

Technical specifications

A presentation controller for the Philips CD-i. The CD-i's controllers were heavily criticised.
CD-i Mouse



  • Graphics Chip: SCC66470, later MCD 212[11]
  • Resolution: 384×280 to 768×560[8]
  • Colours: 16.7 million w/ 32,768 on screen
  • MPEG 1 Cartridge Plug-In for VideoCD and Digital Video[8]


  • Sound Chip: MCD 221[11]
  • ADPCM eight channel sound[8]
  • 16-bit stereo sound
  • Digital Out [12]

Operating System


  • 1 MB of main RAM[11]
  • Single speed CD-ROM drive[8]

CD-i accessories

  • CD-i mouse
  • Roller controller
  • CD-i trackball
  • I/O port splitter
  • Touchpad controller
  • Gamepad controller (Gravis PC GamePad)
  • IR wireless controller
  • RAM expansion and Video-CD (MPEG-1) support with DV Cart
  • Peacekeeper Revolver

Market competition

Panasonic M2 is an interactive kiosk.[13] Multimedia/video game systems include Commodore CDTV, Pioneer LaserActive, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and Tandy Video Information System. Dedicated video game consoles based on CD-ROM media include Sega Mega Drive/Genesis with Sega Mega-CD/Sega CD expansion, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and NEC TurboDuo.


Although Philips had aggressively promoted CD-i, by 1993 Computer Gaming World reported that "skepticism persists about its long-term prospects" compared to other platforms like IBM PC compatibles, Apple Macintosh, and Sega Genesis.[14] An early 1995 review of the system in GamePro stated that "inconsistent game quality puts the CD-i at a disadvantage against other high-powered game producers."[15] A late 1995 review in Next Generation razed both Philips's approach to marketing the CD-i and the hardware itself ("The unit excels at practically nothing except FMV, and then only with the addition of a $200 digital video cartridge"). They noted that while Philips had not yet officially discontinued the CD-i, it was dead for all intents and purposes, citing as evidence the fact that though Philips had a large booth at the 1995 Electronic Entertainment Expo, there was no CD-i hardware or software on display. They scored the console one out of five stars.[8]

After its discontinuation, retrospectively, the CD-i was overwhelmingly panned by critics about its graphics, games and controls. The CD-i's various controllers were ranked the fifth worst video game controller by IGN editor Craig Harris.[16] PC World ranked it as fourth on their list of "The 10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time".[17] listed it as number four on their list of The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time.[18] In 2008, CNET listed the system on its list of The worst game console(s) ever. [19] In 2007, GameTrailers ranked the Philips CD-i as the fourth worst console of all time in its Top 10 Worst Console lineup.[20]

Games that were most heavily criticized include Hotel Mario, Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda's Adventure. EGM's Seanbaby rated The Wand of Gamelon as one of the worst video games of all time.[21] However, Burn:Cycle was positively received by critics, and has often been held up as the standout title for the CD-i.[15][22][23][8]

See also


  1. 1 2 Blake Snow (May 4, 2007). "The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time". Archived from the original on May 8, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  2. "The Deseret News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  3. "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  4. (2005). History of the Philips CD-i,
  5. "COMPANY NEWS; New Philips CD - The New York Times". April 2, 1992. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  6. "New Sunday Times - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  7. "75 Power Players". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 63. November 1995. CD-i started life as an ahead-of-its-time multimedia player, but ended up an under-powered game machine.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Which Game System is the Best!?". Next Generation. Imagine Media (12): 77. December 1995.
  9. 1 2 "New Life For CD-i". Electronic Gaming Monthly (55). Sendai Publishing. February 1994. p. 20.
  10. Ramshaw, Mark James (January 1996). "Generator". Next Generation. Imagine Media (13): 31.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Forster, Winnie (2005). The encyclopedia of consoles, handhelds & home computers 1972 - 2005. GAMEPLAN. p. 208. ISBN 3-00-015359-4.
  13. Matsushita Electric/Panasonic (April 10, 2000). "Planetweb and Panasonic to Bring the Internet to the Interactive Kiosk Marketplace; Panasonic Internet-enabled M2 Interactive Kiosks to Preview at KioskCom 2000". Business Wire. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
  14. "Part II of CGW's Computer Game Developers Conference Coverage". Computer Gaming World. August 1993. p. 38. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  15. 1 2 "Once and Future Kings: Video Game Hardware Outlook". GamePro. IDG (70): 29. May 1995.
  16. "Top 10 Tuesday: Worst Game Controllers". IGN. February 21, 2006. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
  17. The 10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time | PCWorld
  18. The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time, Feature Story from GamePro
  19. The worst game console(s) ever | Crave - CNET
  20. (May 6, 2007). Top Ten Worst Consoles, GameTrailers. Accessed November 14, 2012.
  21. - EGM's Crapstravaganza: The 20 Worst Games of All Time
  22. "News Review: Burn: Cycle". Entertainment Weekly. December 9, 1994.
  23. "Electronic Gaming Monthly's Buyer's Guide". 1995.
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